THE CHURCH IS: The Bride of Jesus Ephesians 5:22-32

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1 THE CHURCH IS: The Bride of Jesus Ephesians 5:22-32 INTRODUCTION: In his book, When Christ Comes, Max Lucado tells a story from ages past about a stately prince and a peasant girl who fall in love. This really is a difficult one to understand. On the one hand is a prince who literally had the world at His disposal. There has never been a more perfect specimen of a man that ever lived. Nothing about Him was common. You wouldn t be exaggerating to say that He is a perfect catch. On the other hand there is a peasant girl. She is nothing more than average. At her best she is plain, but at her worst she can be just plain ugly. There are times when she is cranky and moody, and she rarely ever achieves all she could. To look at her from anyone else s eyes you would never believe she was worth much. But if you could see her through the eyes of the prince, you would believe that she is to die for. Because the prince determined that He couldn t bear to live without her, he asked her to be His bride. The angels in heaven listened expectantly as she accepted his proposal. The prince promised his bride that He would come back for her soon, and the peasant turned princess pledged to faithfully await his return. To this point the story could be any of a number of fairy tales, but now the plot takes a bizarre twist. You would expect the bride to be always thinking about the coming wedding, but she rarely ever mentions it. You would think that her every waking moment would be lived out in anticipation and preparation for the coming of her prince. However, by the way she lives you wouldn t even know she s the bride of a perfect prince. More frequently than not, you can t even tell the difference between the bride and any of the other peasant girls in the village. There are even times when she can be seen flirting with the other men of the village in broad daylight, and who knows what she is doing when nobody is around to see! Can you imagine a peasant girl fortunate enough to be the object of a perfect prince s eternal love? You would expect her to be captivated by His love and filled with a sense of wonder that she was fortunate enough to be loved by Him. You would think that she would be careful to remain pure in anticipation of the return of her royal groom. Instead, to look at her you might wonder if she even remembers she is engaged at all. How could a peasant forget about her prince? Is it possible for a bride to forget her groom? That s a good question, but only we are able to answer it. You see, the story of the prince and His peasant bride is not a fairy tale, or some medieval fable. It isn t a story about anyone else at all, but rather a story about us, you and me, the Page 1 of 5

2 church. We are the ones the Bible calls The Bride of Christ. And to be quite honest, far too often observers might ask if we ve forgotten about the groom to whom we are promised. Would you, along with me, please turn to Ephesians 5:22-33? This passage is on page 1159 in the pew Bible. I don t know the page number in the Bible you brought with you but, again, it is Ephesians 5:22-33 and, in the pew Bible, that is page Please follow along, either by reading or by listening closely. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church 30 for we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. As you may know, this passage has been a hotbed of controversy during our lifetime as people focused in on issues like wives submitting to their husbands and husbands being the head of their wives. Missed in all of this inflammatory rhetoric is that Paul said he was talking about Christ and the church. I do not believe he was giving us instructions about marriage so much as he was giving us instructions about the church. What he said about marriage reflected the culture of his day and he was using that as an illustration about the relationship between Christ and the church. The point Paul was making is that the church is the bride of Jesus and that is what I want to talk about today. THE LOVELY BRIDE To date, I ve performed 51 weddings and attended many more including my own. One thing I ve noticed over the years, brides look lovely. And why not? For 2012, the average cost of a wedding gown is $1,124!! On average, brides spend $300 for getting their hair and makeup done. Accessories? On average, $190 for the bouquet she will carry during the ceremony and then dramatically throw away at the reception. Shoes and other bridal accessories? Another $333, on average. Page 2 of 5

3 TOTAL: Almost $2000 to make a bride look like she will never ever look again in her life! (And just in case you were wondering, nationwide, the average cost for the wedding ceremony is $25,631. And, no, the preacher does not usually get 10%.) A lot of money is spent making the Bride lovely and making her day memorable because it is so important and memories are being made. A bride wants to look her best for her groom. She wants to be her best for her groom, so she is: Careful about her appearance Thoughtful in her actions Tender with her words She wants to spend time with her groom. She is loving when she is with him. She misses him when they are apart. She is hopeful as she anticipates the future they will share. A bride, anticipating her wedding day, is full of excitement, full of enthusiasm and full of joy. I ve been to a lot of weddings and I ve known a lot of married couples. Fast forward a few years and, believe it or not, I ve known some lovely brides to become ugly wives. Now I need to caution the women of the church to hang in here with me. I am going to be talking about brides because that is the subject of the text and the subject of the sermon. Don t get all defensive on me. I know that a lot that I am saying about wives can be said about husbands, too. But that is not the subject for today. So put your claws back and bear with me. THE UGLY WIFE I want you to imagine a situation. It is not always like this in reality but it will be in imagination this morning for the sake of illustration. Imagine a bride who was so careful about her appearance on the day of her wedding who now, as a wife, has let herself go to pot. She is not nearly so careful about what she wears. The $1200 bridal gown has been replaced with $12 sweats. Her hair and makeup? She s gone for a more low-maintenance look. Shoes? Sneakers or flip-flops. Accessories? Forget about it. Imagine a bride who would rather spend time in front of the TV than with her husband. Imagine a bride who, instead of giving her husband loving words of affirmation and encouragement, nags and is never satisfied. Imagine a bride who talks bad about him behind his back and complains to her friends about what he expects of her and how the spark just isn t there anymore. Page 3 of 5

4 This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church. Friends, the church is the bride of Jesus and the church is the people: the church is us. I m afraid that sometimes, we are not so much a lovely bride as we are an ugly wife. CONCLUSION: The epistle to the Ephesians is not the only letter in the Bible that was written to the Ephesian church. Oh, I know there isn t a 1 st Ephesians and a 2 nd Ephesians like there is a 1 st Corinthians and a 2 nd Corinthians, a 1 st Thessalonians and a 2 nd Thessalonians. But there is another letter to the church in Ephesus. You will find it in Revelation 2:1-7. I think it is pretty illuminating. Let me read their mail to you. 2 1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Doesn t that tell us a lot? The Ephesian church, to whom Paul was writing when he used the illustration of marriage to picture the relationship of Jesus and the church, that same church in Ephesus had performed a lot of good deeds, had done a lot of hard work and had persevered in the face of hardship. They were against what Jesus was against. In many ways, they were a commendable church. HOWEVER Jesus said, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Page 4 of 5

5 Paul probably wrote the book of Ephesians in about 60 AD. John probably wrote the book of Revelation about 30 years later. What John wrote makes me think that the church didn t pay enough attention to what Paul wrote. If Jesus were to send a letter to the church in Clay City, would he commend us for our faithfulness or would he charge us with having forsaken our first love? As the Bride of Jesus, may we be very careful not to neglect to present ourselves as a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. May we never speak ill of him to anyone else. May we honor him whose name we wear and never misuse it or use it lightly. And may we never forsake him by giving our heart to another or by simply ignoring him and neglecting him. After all, how can we ignore such great and sacrificial love? I assure you that no one will ever love you like Jesus does. His love is divine and it excels all other loves. HYMN OF COMMITMENT #648 LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING Page 5 of 5

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